Thursday, November 17, 2005

Customer (dis) Service

Since the work week continues without any electricity (see "Bedlam in Belgium" posting here) in my apartment in Brussels I am visiting several restaurants this week for obvious reasons. Due to the range of restaurants this posting will focus on reviews of the following establishments (for reference -- see my "Eating vs. Dining" post on this blog) :

Tout Bon -- , Located in Place Luxembourg near the European Parliament. Despite its "chain" ownership this was always a favorite meeting place of mine due to the good food and bakery motif but not anymore!! I stopped by there tonight to grab a sandwich before working at my undisclosed hotel location(Advice -- wear a suit and walk around like you "belong" wherever you are) but after the waitress brought me my VERY small bottle of water she stood in the open kitchen/wait staff area with her back to me (and other patrons) while she ate a full dinner and nearly one liter of Coca Cola!! I waited 15 minutes then rushed to pay my 2 euro bill in non-verbal protest but as several people cut in front of me to pay their own bills I lost my patience so the manager apologized and let me pay my bill. In my worst French I explained that I could not eat anything due to the wait staff and that his restaurant was "merde"!!! I will have to rate them with a "1" on my 1 to 5 scale only because I never allowed for "O" when I created the scale!! Extremely terrible customer service so I urge all readers to boycott them.

The Home Cooking -- no website that I know of. This is a relatively new restaurant around the corner from Place Luxembourg in Brussels. The decor is very basic, dominated by butcher block color wood. The customer service was lacking primarily due to the abundance of 4 person tables they had open in the middle of the restaurant but they insisted that the 2 of us take the 2 person table next to a table of 4 already seated so these 4 had to move to allow us to sit -- bad form to get started with new customers. I had their "Indian salad" with a hint of curry and very nice chicken pieces which you might guess -- "tasted like chicken" :) They need some work on customer service so only a "3" ranking for this establishment.

Le Nouvel Artiste - no website but they are located at Rue Caroly 35 in Brussels near the World Class Health Club. I have been here a few times and the food is ultimately very good BUT come prepared to wait for it to arrive. Amazing that they can have 30 people or 6 people dining there but it always seems very slow. I had their grilled salmon which was very tasty especially with the antipasto side dish but the salmon was dominated by two many bones since I try to avoid having to "work with" my food. They are holding steady at a "3" ranking.

Star of Asia --, at Rue de Treves 8 in Brussels near Place Luxembourg served as my haven from the "merde storm" at Tout Bon this evening!!! This is a nice "stand by" Indian restaurant which reminds me very much of my 2 years living in London except for the French they speak. My dinner consisted of two appetizers (tapas like) of -- crab andeman and reshmi kabab which were both excellent. The wait staff was top knotch and friendly thus a 20% tip was the reward for a job well done. Given their steady food quality and customer service this will rank as a "4.5" on my scale.

Please note my "Bedlam in Belgium" posting earlier this week for a further overview of the lack of a customer service culture I have experienced in Brussels. Granted this requires much greater research but I have to wonder what incentives are lacking for wait staff and management to constantly focus on creating a pleasant consumer experience. My speculation is the rigid employment laws in Belgium -- why work hard and scramble for tips if you can slide by doing their minimum amount of work at a guaranteed wage????

"Quality is Dead" - Friedrich Nietzsche paraphrase and my apologies,


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